Savior: "When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee, wither thou wouldest not" (Jn. 21:18). Now it might seem as if with the altogether changed circumstances of the present world, now that Christianity is no longer a forlorn hope, a persecuted cause, but a great historic power, the words of this passage have no further message for us. We are not called upon (at least it is not likely that the majority of us will be called upon) to take up the cross, to lay down our lives in this realistic sense. And yet I think it would be a mistake to dismiss these words as possessed of a purely historical interest and having no bearing on our own life as followers of Christ. It is easy to show that these uncompromising sayings of our Lord about the denial of self, the renunciation of life are but the sharpest expression with reference to concrete cases of something which everywhere underlies his teaching as an element of universal significance. No, it is not in exceptional cases; it is not in periods of persecution alone that the duty thus described devolves upon the Christian. Christianity as such in its very essence is a religion of self-denial and crossbearing and life-surrender. The same thoughts found here appear in other contexts which do not impose upon them any historical limitation. This very saying in regard to the taking up of the cross is found in Luke where there is no direct reference to our Lord's own crucifixion and moreover with a very significant variation bringing out the universal scope of the idea: "If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross daily" (Lk. 9:23). Every day we are called upon to obey this injunction and not merely in times of extraordinary trial. Our Lord throughout gives to understand that the life of discipleship to which his followers bind themselves is a life of serious import, of tremendous cost, to which no one should rashly commit himself without calculating the consequences. In the same context of Luke already quoted, he says: "Which of you desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete" (Lk. 14:28)? "Or what king as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand" (Lk. 14:31)? Nor can we dismiss the utterances of this kind with the easy remark that these are paradoxical, hyperbolical sayings which do not admit of literal interpretation and enforcement; for, granting that they are figurative and intentionally paradoxical, this does not absolve us from the duty, but rather ought to stimulate us in searching for the principles involved. Our Lord has given an extreme, pointed form to his words, certainly not for the purpose that we should brush them aside, but that our interest should be aroused and our minds react upon them and study them. Now in endeavoring to do this, it will, I think, be conducive to clearness to proceed both negatively and positively: to state first the false views of self-renunciation which are not only not implied but distinctly excluded by our Lord's teaching on the subject; and then in the second place to unfold the true conception of this duty which his utterances do present to us. Cross-Bearing and Asceticism Beginning then with the negative side of the matter, it is clear that our Lord did not uphold this principle in any pessimistic, ascetic spirit because he considered the natural life of man as such an undesirable thing. Life with all its legitimate pleasures he considered a gift of God and spoke
Published on Apr 28, 2010
Published on Apr 28, 2010
A Sermon on Matthew 16:24-25 can render us absolutely secure to the allurements of sin. It is only the continuous supply of the grace of God...